Thursday, October 30, 2008

Book #22 - Axiom

Ever since I attended the Leadership Summit this summer I have been reading Bill Hybels' book, Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs. This book is 76 chapters of incredible leadership lessons that Bill Hybels has learned over his many years of leading Willow Creek Community Church.

I could have very easily read this book in one sitting, but I knew that there was way too much information to just go through it quickly. Just as when I read John Maxwell's book Leadership Gold, I know that I will leave this book on my desk to refer to time and time again.

Redeeming Pain

In the last couple of weeks I have had two conversations with people from Charter Oak Church who have approached me about walking along side of people going through pain. The first was a man who had a heart attack a few years ago. He is now fully recovered and he wants to make himself available to walk beside any man who has a heart attack. He said that it would have been so beneficial to him to have someone who had been through a heart attack to walk beside him through everything. I was blown away. He is a guy who is brand new to our church and yet, he already gets it. He has a serving heart that wants to redeem the pain that he suffered by walking with someone who is in the midst of that pain now. Only God!

My second conversation was with a woman who was also offering to walk along side of someone, this time with another woman who is going through a separation from her husband. Many years ago, she and her husband were separated, but now, by the grace of God, they are happily married. She wants to redeem the pain she walked through by walking along side of someone going through the same thing. That's so awesome. Only God!

I truly believe the Bride of Christ is at her best when people like these two step forward and offer to use the pain they have lived through to bring glory to God and love to someone else. Only God can work in some one's heart like that. I am closer to Jesus because of these two people. I believe others will be closer to God because of their willingness to walk with people in pain.

If one of these two situations describe you and you would like to have someone walk beside you through this, send me an email.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Book #21 - Hidden in Plain Sight

Last week I read Mark Buchanan's latest book, Hidden in Plain Sight: The Secret of More. The entire book is based on a year long study that Mark did on Peter. He really drills down on 2 Peter 1:1-9:

"Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins."

I don't know anyone who has spent a year with Peter. But if you read this book you will quickly learn why that is a really good idea.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Weekend Worship

This past weekend's worship blew me away. Pastor Dave completed his series, Dollars & $ense, by challenging our congregation to dedicate their hearts and lives to what God is going to do in and through the people of Charter Oak Church in the coming year as we obediently tithe. I will never get used to seeing people come forward and place their pledge to faithfully follow Jesus in the coming year with their finances. At every service I had tears in my eyes as I watched people commit themselves to the work of God.

I think it was even more meaningful now as people don't know what is going to be happening in the future, not that we knew before, but there is definitely a greater sense of uncertainty now. This is all about faith in our heavenly Father. He will provide all that we need. He will be faithful to us. He will carry the day no matter what the state of the economy is, no matter who is the president, no matter what. Our God reigns!

I thank God that I was able to bear witness to the movement of people's faith as they came forward and declared that God is in charge.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Study Leave

I am on study leave this week. I doubt there will be a place in the woods where I can get an Internet connection, which is probably good. Please pray for me. This is one of the most important weeks of the year for me when it comes to my leadership. I am looking forward to what God is going to do in me and through me this week. I love this time of year, being in the woods, the leaves changing, the touch of God on my heart. Good stuff. I miss my family, but I think that makes me even more in tune with the love of my heavenly Father.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Meeting a New Need

The Latrobe School District announced that there would be periodic early release days this school year. It just happens that the day they choose is also the day we have an after school program for elementary age kids.
We quickly realized that there was a new need in our community - quality care for elementary age kids who's parents work. What would Charter Oak Church do with this new opportunity?
Yesterday was our first opportunity to meet a new need in our region. We worked with the three principals of the local elementary schools. We let every family know of our ability to meet their family's need throughout this school year.
We had 84 kids show up! Did they have fun? Were they well served? As kids were being picked up some were crying because they didn't want to leave. Others kids were begging their parents to bring them back the next time. I think Maxine Wilson and her team did an incredible job!
It is amazing when we open our eyes to the opportunities that God presents and then we bring passionate, called, and gifted people together to serve in places where God is obviously at work. We couldn't have created the kind of excitement that we saw - both in parents and in the kids. The parents, who had a major problem on their hands, now know that they can trust us with the care of their children. The children, who had never been here before, now know that this is an awesome place.
All of this happened because we were open to the possibility of God using the people of Charter Oak Church to meet a new need in our region. It was also possible because we have built relationships with the local schools and have their trust to recommend us to every parent in the district. It has happened because we haven't asked what can you do for us, instead, we have asked how can we serve you?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Concert Last Night

Last night I had the awesome privilege to sit next to most awesome woman in the world, my wife Kelli, at the Stephen Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith concert at the South Hills Bible Chapel. Great location - very intimate. The worship center sits about 1,400 people, I think. There isn't a bad seat in the house. The furthest seat away from the stage isn't much further than the distance from our stage to the back of the room.
Kelli and I were invited by some great friends to experience a night out that was fabulous. We went out to dinner, we talked, we laughed, we told hilarious stories about each other.
Then we heard some of the tragic story of Stephen Curtis Chapman's family. He sang songs we have heard before, but with a new heart and a new passion. I can't even imagine what it would be like to go through what they have. Stephen is a story teller, between songs and in the songs - he tells the story of God's great love. It was really good stuff, with really good people to be with last night.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


On Sunday afternoon, I facilitated my first "Pastor's Lunch" with 13 people who are new to Charter Oak Church. I decided to start this first step opportunity because I want to make it easier for people who are trying to discern if Charter Oak Church is the family they want to become a part of as they grow to become more like Jesus. As we ate lunch I shared some of the church's history and my faith background. After they finished eating I gave them the opportunity to ask me anything they wanted about the church - our mission, our ministries, our staff, whatever they might need to know to understand us - where we have been, where we are currently, and where we are headed.
It was a great time together. I loved hearing the stories of lives that have been touched in a significant way in the short time they have been attending Charter Oak Church. I thank God that He has brought these people here. I thank God for what has been done in them and will be done through them in the future.
If the people present for the Pastor's Lunch are an indication of the lives that are being transformed by the love and grace of God, then I can't wait to see what's next as God moves in powerful ways.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Guitar Shopping

I took my family shopping at the Guitar Center this past weekend. My son is in the market for a new electric guitar. This was my first experience at a major, national guitar store chain. I was blown away. There had to be a thousand guitars there. The prices varied from $10,000+ to $199.
As my son tried different guitars, I quickly realized that quality is everything, but quality costs big bucks.
That makes me think about how we do things around Charter Oak Church. I believe when we are serving God and making His name known in this region we should do it at the highest level of quality that we can. Sometimes that means that we invest some serious dollars into purchasing something that will help make that happen. Other times it means that we invest our time and energy to bring the most innovative and creative process to the table. It may not cost money in terms of buying something, but it definitely is an investment.
Every week people enter our doors for the first time. They quickly realize that we a different than the typical church. I know this because people tell me. These people are looking for an environment where they can experience the love and grace of God. We can either do that with little creativity and little investment or we can bring our very best to the table week after week. You would think this is a no brainer, but it isn't. We are different as a church because we work hard to bring quality to everything we do so that we can honor God.
It is easy to forget in the day to day activity of the church that high quality honors God; we just get so busy. But just as you can hear the difference in sound between a cheap guitar and a quality one, there is a difference in the church when we bring our very best versus just showing up. God always deserves our best!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

What Does 40 Look Like?

I need some help. I am turning 40 years old in November and I will be preaching on my birthday. So I thought I would do a series on the number 40. I have the series all planned out, but I don't have a logo or an image for it yet. I'm not sure what 40 looks like. How do I create an image that captures that number? Now if you are thinking about sending an email to me with ideas that include an old, fat guy with no hair, you can stop now. I'm trying to think of something creative. If you have an idea, I would love to hear about it. Nothing is out of bounds, except of course the old fat guy idea. So here's your chance to influence the series image.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I just checked the stats on the number of downloads of our sermon podcasts. It has only been up about 2 weeks and we already have 75 downloads. I can't believe my mom has listened that often! If you want to listen, then you can click here.

I think we are going to put up Pastor Mark's last series and the series that we did on Titus this summer after that. So keep checking in for new podcast posts.

What They REALLY Mean...

I just read this post from Perry Noble and I had to share it. I can't tell you how many times this has happened to me and I knew what the underlying meaning was behind what someone was saying. What is written is tough to read for some people.

What They REALLY Mean…
One of the lessons I’ve learned while being in the ministry for the past 17 years is sometimes what people say isn’t exactly true…things such as…

(WARNING…you will probably only like this post if you are a pastor or a staff member of a church!)

What They Say: “I’m looking for a church that preaches the Word!”
What They Mean: “I’m looking for a church that preaches MY view of the Word. I think the BLANK translation should be used…I think BLANK should be talked about a lot while BLANK should be ignored. And if you ever stop preaching my view of the Word I will leave and tell others that you don’t preach the Word!”

What They Say: “Lot’s of people have been coming to me and saying they don’t like is…”
What They Mean: “I basically only have three friends…and all of them think exactly like me. The other night we were enjoying a time of self righteousness because, after all, we are right about everything…and we're also slandering you (in the form of prayer requests) and thought it would be wise to approach you with our pet peeve. We’ve actually talked to no one else about this but said “lots” because we wanted to validate our dysfunction.”

What They Say: “I’m leaving the church.”
What They Mean: “Beg me to stay. If you will just ask me I will share with you several ways you can compromise God’s vision that He’s given you, thus becoming nothing more than a people pleasing pastor who is more interested in popularity than obedience. If you don’t bow to my demands I will remind you that I tithe and that the church needs my money, reducing you to a mere preaching whore…one who is paid for a service for the pleasure of another person.”

What They Say: “I want a church that is more focused on discipleship.”
What They Mean: “I want a church where everyone knows me and how important I am! I don’t want to reach people who are different from me, be it economic class or race or even musical preference. I already know WAY more than I do…but I somehow equate spirituality with knowledge rather than application and I rather enjoy feeling intellectually superior to those who don’t know as much as me.”

What They Say: “Don’t take this personally…but…”
What They Mean: “I am about to lower the BOOM on you…but you can’t get angry because I told you not to take it personally. Even though you have dedicated your life to this and pretty much invest every ounce of energy you have to this cause…and I think about it once or twice a week…you need to receive my attacks, even when they are personal…and you cannot retaliate because, remember, it’s not personal.”

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Book #20 - The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family

On the flight home from Kansas City I read Patrick Lencioni's new book, The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family: A leadership fable about restoring sanity to the most important organization in your life.

This book was written for me. I love my wife and kids, man do I ever. But I just have never resonated with the family self-help books that are out there. I don't know why, but I just don't think they were speaking my language. Pat's book is speaking my language.

This book is real. It is applicable. I didn't feel beat up or guilty after reading it. I didn't think it was pie in the sky stuff. As I was reading I could easily ask myself the 3 big questions. It doesn't matter who you are or what situation you are in, this book is relevant.

Here are the questions:

  1. What is our top priority right now?
  2. What makes us unique?
  3. How will we talk about and use the answers to this information?

If you are business minded guy who is tired of all the other family help books out there, then get this one. I'm sure it resonates with women as well, but my wife hasn't read it yet to let me know. This book will be an ongoing conversation for our family for a very long time.

Book #19 - Jesus Wants to Save Christians

Last week as I flew to Kansas City I read Rob Bell's new book (thanks Tom) Jesus Wants to Save Christians. I think this is my favorite Rob Bell book. It is just such a timely read with everything going on right now in the country and just stuff that I am dealing with as the lead pastor of Charter Oak Church.

I really love the connection that is made between the superpowers of Jesus' day and the superpower of the US today. "Jesus was a Middle Eastern man who lived in an occupied country and was killed by the superpower of his day." Rob paints the picture of the multi-generational plan of God and how God is revealed in each generation. The question becomes, how is God being revealed in our generation?

This is a really good read and I would highly recommend it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Four Friends

Mark 2:1-5 is the account of four friends who want to bring their crippled friend to Jesus for healing. As these five men approached the house where Jesus was preaching the word, they quickly realized that the house was full, all of the space around the house was taken, and there was no way they were going to get their friend to Jesus. Or was there?

The friends went up on the roof with their friend in tow. They tore open the roof and lowered their friend right in front of Jesus. One of the most amazing things about this story is that when Jesus saw the faith of the four friends he healed the crippled man.

One of the most important things we do at Charter Oak Church is equip believers to become fully devoted followers of Jesus so that you can reach people who do not have a relationship with Jesus.

Mark 2:1-5 is a great example of this. They have every reason in the world to turn back and go home without their friend entering into a relationship with Jesus. But they get creative and they will not be deterred. Their friend is obviously too important. They risk it all so that they can get him to Jesus. He enters into a relationship with Jesus and then he is healed.

I know there are people in your circle of influence that are hungry for a relationship with Jesus and they have things going on in their lives that need to be healed. You may be the very one that God will use to introduce that person to Jesus. It won't be easy to get the courage up to invite them to Charter Oak Church with you, but the very person we are talking about in your circle of influence has immeasurable value to your heavenly Father.

Take the risk - invest and invite.